The day that brave men changed the world

Seventy-five years ago, on June 6th, 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in history took place on the beaches of Normandy. The logistics are staggering. There were 6,939 assorted ships, including the 1,213 warships that began the invasion with a dawn bombardment. During the night parachute troops had made glider assaults to capture and hold key bridges.

The allies had engaged in major deception plans, including a fictitious US Army Group, led by General Patton and stationed in Kent, to persuade the Germans that the landing would be made at the Pas de Calais. The Germans had assumed that if the Allies did choose Normandy or Brittany, they would have to attack a port such as Cherbourg to disembark safely and land supplies, including fuel. Instead the Allies took their own floating harbour called Mulberry with them, and kept the invasion force refuelled as it moved inland with PLUTO, a pipeline under the ocean, pumping oil across the Channel from England.

Brave men stormed ashore in landing craft that had to run the gauntlet of underwater obstacles and mines, and under enemy fire. On D-Day itself nearly 160,000 troops landed in Normandy, a figure that had swelled to 875,000 by the end of June. The supply operation was on a barely imaginable scale. Vehicles, guns, tanks and ammunition had to be transported in vast quantities, as did food and fuel.

Estimates put the Allied cost at 4,414 confirmed dead, nearly half of those at the heavily defended Omaha beach, but the Allies took all 5 beaches on the first day, and later linked them into a perimeter that eventually paved the way to the Allied victory on the Western front. With the Russians advancing from the East, it secured the liberation of Europe from the scourge of Nazism.

Had there been no Churchill, derided as “a criminal” by some on the Left today, there would have been no Britain still in the war to serve as a base for the build-up of men and materials, and D-Day could not have happened. There was no ambiguity about that war. The men who put their lives on the line that day were prepared to accept sacrifice, if necessary, to protect their countries and their peoples from a monstrous and evil tyranny. We owe our peace and freedom today to that readiness on their part, and on the 75th anniversary of their bravery, we salute them. They changed the world.